The Ability to Respond Effectively


There's an ancient little story about four brothers named 'Everybody', 'Somebody', 'Anybody' and 'Nobody'. There was an important job to be done and 'Everybody' was sure that 'Somebody' would do it. 'Anybody' could have done it, but 'Nobody' did it. 'Somebody' got angry about that because it was 'Everybody's' job. Everybody thought that 'Anybody' could do it, but 'Nobody' realized that 'Everybody' wouldn't do it. It ended up that 'Everybody' blamed 'Somebody' when 'Nobody' did what 'Anybody' could have done.

This story might be an old one but it is very much relevant today, especially in this modern world of corporate houses, IT industries, relationships and families. We, as human beings, have carried the same mindset, as mentioned in the story, when it comes to owning up responsibility and responding to a situation without judgment of the past or fear of the future.

Responsibility is a word that we have been introduced to right from our childhood days. Yet, it is evident that the majority of people shirk from responsibility. The Latin root of the word, 'Responsibility' is 'respondere' i.e. to respond, meaning when I am responsible, I am not reacting to a situation, I am responding with awareness and I am work consciously on resolving the issue. 

For eons, mankind was taught to be compliant. So it is easy if one does something 'wrong' to throw the responsibility on someone else. "He made me do this," or "She told me it would be alright."

Ordinarily in our dictionaries, "responsibility" means duty - doing things the way we are expected to do them by our parents, teachers, priests, politicians, and mainly by somebody else or others. We think that our responsibility is to fulfil the demands made upon us by our elders and our society. If we act accordingly, we are responsible people; if we act on our own i.e. individually, then we are regarded as irresponsible.

All enlightened masters have made it clear: An individual has to take the responsibility for one's evolution, health, and happiness - Appo Deepo Bhava: Be a light unto yourself, says the Buddha. In our unconscious behaviour, we shift the responsibility to everyone but ourselves. The moment one gathers enough courage to bring the focus onto oneself and looks within, a new beginning takes place in life and with that, one is on the path of self-transformation.  It needs to be remembered that, looking within is neither blaming nor condemning oneself; the purpose mainly is to own up to oneself. 

Many people who suffer from lung cancer do not take responsibility for their decision to smoke; they sue the tobacco company instead. Many love to blame their parents for everything bad that ever happened to them. It is so much easier to blame than take responsibility.

The very word 'responsibility' is two words. It means "response-ability". And response is possible only if we are spontaneous, here and now. Response means that our attention, our awareness and consciousness, is totally 'here and now', in the present. So whatever happens, we respond with our whole being. It is not a question of being in tune with somebody else. It simply means to be in tune with the present moment. This ability to respond is responsibility.

Osho explains, "I say that you will be able to act with absolute response-ability. But it will not be the responsibility that you have been taught and conditioned for. It will be a totally new phenomenon. It will be just like a mirror. If you come in front of it, it responds, it reflects you. Whoever comes in front of it, it will respond with totality and reflect the reality. The consciousness which is in the present is just like a mirror."

“There are times when you are in the present in spite of yourself. For example, if walking on the path you suddenly come across a long snake, are you going to be guided by past experience? You will forget all that you have learned: all teachings, all scriptures, all that have been taught by teachers, parents, etc. Suddenly, you will find the 'here and now' because this is not a time to think about what to do, what is right and what is wrong. You will simply jump out of the way. This will be responsibility, spontaneity."

He further expounds, "Or your house is on fire and you are taking a shower, naked. Are you going to dress before you get out of the house? Put your tie right? Polish your shoes? No, there is no time. This is spontaneous. It is not guided, because you have not been continuously experiencing your house catching fire. It has never happened before. So there is no past experience or book to guide you. If you think you cannot do anything without guidance, then you are finished. The window was open. You could have jumped. But it has to be a spontaneous action in the moment, here and now. And I call it absolutely responsible, responsible to life, responsible for your own being."

When one acts according to past experiences and teachings and conditionings, that individual is not a real person; he is absolutely phony, because he is not looking at the real situation. He will be searching for the right answer in the memory, and the memory has never come across such a situation before. Every situation is so new, and hence, one cannot be guided by experience. If we are guided by experience, it is going to be a wrong action and that is the whole misery of the world. Everybody is acting wrong, trying to be right and this is the trouble, trying to be in tune with past experiences. 

Life brings new situations every day, and if we wait to be guided by past experience, we will miss the opportunity to act responsibly, to act spontaneously. This whole idea of responsibility and being guided by experience is told by people who don't want us to be 'here and now'. They go on giving advice on how to act, what to do, but they don't know that life does not go according to their guidelines. 

Osho points out, "Only one thing is eternally true, and that is your consciousness. If you can bring your consciousness to the present, you cannot go wrong. Whatever you do out of that consciousness is always going to be right, not according to any criterion, but just because it is coming out of a total sense of awareness. Out of total awareness, nobody has ever done anything wrong. According to me, being right is what comes out of your spontaneity and out of your consciousness and out of your presence 'here and now'; and what is not out of your spontaneity and consciousness is wrong.

He adds, "Heraclitus was right, you cannot step in to the same river twice. Hence, there cannot be any guidance. All guidance will create trouble for you. You have to be kept absolutely clean of all guidance, so that you can respond with total awareness to the present situation without any hesitation, without any thinking."

Sartre has said that responsibility is the only human burden. No animal is responsible. Evolution is responsible for all that the animal is. The animal, however, is not responsible for anything but man is responsible. So whatever man does, he or she will now be responsible for it. If you want to create a hell and go down, it is up to you; if you want to evolve, if you want to grow and create a blissful state, it is up to you, explains Osho.

It is imperative that we make ourselves more alert, in practically all aspects and in all dimensions of life. This will require what Jonas Edward Salk calls, "a meta-biological evolution", which will not involve the survival of the fittest, but as he says, "survival of the wisest".

Naina Rajkumari (Ma Prem Naina) is associated with Osho World Foundation and travels widely facilitating workshops and seminars. Born in Jorhat, she was initiated into Osho Sannyas in 2003 at Oshodham, New Delhi.